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28-year-old woman learns she’s an African princess, and Disney’s making a movie about her

Ready for a real-life princess story?

Sarah Jane Culberson was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, to an African father and a white mother, but her parents were both very young and felt they were far too young to provide and care for a child, so baby Sarah was put into foster care and adopted by Jim and Judy Culberson, also of Morgantown.

sarah culberson princess sierra leone

Credit: Princess Sarah Culberson

Throughout her childhood, she wrestled with questions about her personal identity and wondered a lot about her biological parents. At the age of 21, she began to look for her birth parents.

She learned that her birth mother died from cancer when Sarah was just 11 years old. But her father was alive and living in a village in West Africa, so in 2004, she arrived in Sierra Leone to meet her father. It was then that she learned about her true heritage.

She learned that she was born Esther Elizabeth Kposowa in 1976 and that she’s a Mahaloi, the granddaughter of a Paramount Chief in Sierra Leone, the daughter of the chief of the royal family of the Mende tribe.

Sarah and her father, Prince Joseph Konia Kposowa
Credit: Sarah Culberson

Yes, Sarah Jane Culberson of Morgantown, West Virginia, is a princess. A Mende Princess of Bumpe, Sierra Leone.

“[The discovery] gave me a deeper sense of my identity as being someone who operates and straddles two different worlds and cultures,” Culberson said in a recent interview. “Learning about my history in Sierra Leone, my family, community, country, that makes a huge part of who I am.”

Credit: Sarah Culberson

In 2009, Culberson co-authored a book titled, A Princess Found, which tells the story of her childhood, her search for her birth parents, and finding out that she is Sierra Leonan royalty. It was then that her story got the attention of Disney execs.

Disney has plans to adapt Culberson’s book (or should we say, Princess Sarah Culberson’s book) for the big screen. Set to produce the film is Stephanie Allain, a former Warner Brothers exec who also worked as President of Production for Jim Henson Productions from 1996 to 2000.

 

Allain also worked on two different Muppets films, including Muppets From Space (1998), which grossed more than $127 million at the box office. She was also the first woman of color to produce the Academy Awards ceremony in 2020.

Disney’s film about Culberson’s journey to discover she’s a real-life princess is in the early stages of production.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!